Mayoral candidates take on tech at forum

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Anjali Athavaley, Nilay Patel, Anthony Weiner, Sal Albanese and Adolfo Carrion Jr.
at the Coalition for Queens’ Mayoral Tech ForumTHE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
Anjali Athavaley, Nilay Patel, Anthony Weiner, Sal Albanese and Adolfo Carrion Jr. at the Coalition for Queens’ Mayoral Tech Forum

Mayoral candidates discussed ways to improve the city’s booming technology industry during the Mayoral Tech Policy Forum on June 17 at the Museum of the Moving Image.

The Coalition for Queens, which fosters the tech community in the borough, hosted the event. It brought out more than 100 techies.

“Technology affects everything from all the different industries,” said JuKay Hsu, founder of the Coalition for Queens. “I think it should be a large part of everything the candidates do.”

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and former Congressman Anthony Weiner took part in the discussion.

To kick off the forum, moderators asked the candidates to reveal what their smart phones, carriers and favorite apps are.

Albanese has a BlackBerry Bold with Verizon and likes the Major League Baseball app; Carrion carries an iPhone with Verizon and frequently listens to Pandora; Liu has an iPhone with AT&T service and also likes Pandora; and Weiner said he has both a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but did not name his carriers or his favorite app.

Moderators Anjali Athavaley of The Wall Street Journal and Nilay Patel of The Verge emphasized the event was not a debate. But the cast of former and current public officials did not miss a chance to promote their campaigns while answering questions collected from social media and tech communities.

Topics included tech jobs, startup companies, housing for workers, digital media and education in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The candidates all praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to boost the tech industry, but agreed more could be done. Ideas included increasing the city’s broadband infrastructure.

Discussing technology in schools, Wiener suggested that all students carry Kindles in their backpacks instead of 40-pound books. He later clarified he was not supporting Amazon, which makes and sells the Kindle, but mentioned the device as one example of e-readers.

The roundtable also touched on “disrupters” such as Uber. The app, which allows people to schedule a cab instead of hailing one, has come under fire from the Taxi and Limousine Commission. But Weiner drew some laughs about the subject in general.

“I like the disrupter title. I’d like to think I’ve done that to the mayoral campaign,” he said, adding, “We want you to be a successful tech company, but we don’t want you to undermine the laws.”

Building more affordable housing for tech workers and having more office space for companies was another popular idea at the forum.

 

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